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Why Diets Fail You

Nowhere is hope over experience more prevalent than in the world of the multimillion-dollar diet industry.

There is a growing amount of evidence suggesting that for many people going on a diet which restricts what you eat as a way of achieving enduring weight loss does not work and is not sustainable in either the mid or long term.

If restrictive or calorie-controlled diets worked, then by now one ‘super diet’ would have emerged and it would work for everyone, but this is definitely not the case. Hundreds of diet books are published every year and no doubt this trend will continue.

Any diet that encourages you to eat fewer calories, or to radically cut out whole food groups, in order to achieve weight loss is scientifically flawed. Denying yourself food to the point of going hungry convinces your subconscious mind that you are living in a time of food shortage or famine and passes messages to your body to hold onto its fat as your mind is not sure for how long the food shortage will continue. As you can imagine, this is counter-productive to good health as the body feels under stress.

If you have dieted in the past, and most people have, your mind will have a ‘memory’ of experiencing those periods of reduced food intake. Periods of self-induced calorie reduction where you experience hunger pangs are very difficult to maintain and are often the trigger for a stint of bingeing or excessive eating. This is what is meant by ‘yo-yo dieting’. Yo-yo dieting like this can negatively affect your metabolism, making it even harder in the future to regulate your weight. If you recognise you have a pattern of dieting and bingeing, then it is even more vital that when you commit to eating real food as part of nutritionally balanced meals that leave you satisfied, and that you do not go hungry, as this will quickly plunge your metabolism back into fat-storing mode.

A holistic, all-body approach to eating real food means that there is no advantage to going hungry or feeling deprived. This approach is diametrically opposed to the usual diet model. In How to Feel Differently about Food, we encourage a way of eating that promotes reassuring your mind that nutritious food is available to you and that your body is no longer under threat of impending food shortage. This reassurance enables habitual stress levels around food to be reduced and when the stress symptoms of emotional eating are reduced, your body reduces its production of cortisol – the stress hormone that can also inhibit weight loss. Feeling less stressed also ensures that the nourishment in the foods that are eaten becomes more ‘bio-available’ and advantageous. Later in the book we explain how stress shuts down many of the processes of digestion, leaving sufferers deprived of essential nutrition.

Our methodology promotes resetting your metabolism into fat-burning mode instead of fat-storing mode and this is achieved through selecting appetising and tasty foods that encourage satiety. In addition, this approach HOW TO FEEL DIFFERENTLY ABOUT FOOD 10 focuses on the effect of refined sugar as a key cause of weight gain. Sugar and simple carbohydrates are rapidly absorbed into your bloodstream and affect your body’s production of insulin. Rapid spikes in blood sugar cause insulin levels to rise and take sugar out of the bloodstream and into storage in the liver, muscles and (if they are full) fat cells; the high glucose level is therefore followed by a rapid drop in blood glucose levels. This in itself can be the cause of sugar cravings and the trigger for compulsive eating. The cumulative effect of eating in ways that spike insulin production eventually leads to what is called ‘insulin resistance’. This is a condition in which the cells of the body become unresponsive to increasingly high levels of insulin and this is a key predictor of diabetes.

The latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC, 2014) in the US show that almost 10 per cent of the US population has been diagnosed with diabetes. The equivalent figures from Diabetes UK (2015) show figures approaching 3.5 million in 2015 and all predictions expect these numbers to grow year upon year. In addition, many, many more people the world over have ‘pre-diabetes’ (also known as metabolic syndrome) and remain undiagnosed until their health deteriorates with associated serious health problems – heart, circulation, eyesight and kidney damage – that bring them to medical attention and the confirmation of type 2 diabetes. Going back to health risks associated with being overweight, the incidence of pre-diabetes and diabetes itself is higher in patients who are classed as obese.

There are two other important hormones found to affect a person’s ability to manage his/her weight. The first is called leptin. It is made by fat cells and works to decrease appetite. This can become unbalanced in response to insulin resistance caused by spikes in blood sugar levels. Leptin is responsible for sending messages to your brain that you’ve eaten enough and feel sated. When leptin’s signalling goes awry, the hormone stops being produced so the messages that you have eaten enough are no longer sent, which leads to an inability to determine satiety. This is called ‘leptin resistance’. Medical professionals are now focusing more on the part leptin plays in the development of obesity, and how the hormone responds may actually be the result of obesity.

The second key involved with appetite is called ghrelin and its job is to signal to you that you are hungry. It also influences how quickly you feel hungry again after eating. Ghrelin naturally increases before meal times and is then designed to reduce after eating for around three hours until it once more naturally increases to signal the need to eat again. However, this hormone too can become unbalanced and send hunger signals more frequently, encouraging a reduction in the time between meals or even promoting the habit of constant grazing on food. One way that ghrelin becomes out of balance is through stress, which disturbs sleep patterns. This can affect workers who work unnatural hours such as night shifts. Not getting enough sleep has been shown to increase levels of ghrelin and cause an increase in appetite.

In simple terms, the hormonal responses that help manage appetite and weight are like a house of cards that are all interdependent on each other to maximise your health, weight management and wellbeing. Although designed to be perfectly in balance, a key element that can cause the whole house of cards to collapse is the eating of sugar and simple carbohydrates. It doesn’t take long before sugar spikes begin to undermine the complex hormonal interactions.

The good news is that by reducing stress levels, improving sleep patterns and changing the types of food eaten it is possible to re-calibrate the hormones’ signals to the brain to promote a feeling of fullness and enhanced wellbeing. On the food front this is achieved by cutting out refined sugars, simple carbohydrates and processed foods and replacing them with real foods, including plenty of good fats, such as olive oil, oily fish and nuts that your body can naturally process.

 

This blog was taken from Sally Baker and Liz Hogon’s book How to Feel Differently About Food

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Pumpkin Power: Your Halloween Health Kick

Pumpkin Recipes

It’s the one and only time of year where we see hundreds of pumpkins lining supermarket shelves and garden paths, often with a rather wicked smile grinning back at you. But don’t be fooled, they’re actually one of the greatest superfoods out there. Pumpkin seeds are one of the best plant-based sources of zinc, which works wonders for the human body by improving the immune system, preventing osteoporosis and reducing cholesterol. Pumpkin seeds are also a fantastic source of protein, fibre and magnesium. They help with weight loss, relaxation and increased fertility in both men and women, and their high levels of L-tryptophan make them an effective mood booster – particularly useful as the cold weather sets in!

Extracted from her book, Love Your Bones, Max Tuck provides two delicious recipes to help you make the most of this Halloween superfood:

 

Pumpkin seed pesto

In this recipe pumpkin seeds replace the traditional pine nuts that can be so very expensive. For optimum nutrition and digestibility it is important to soak the pumpkin seeds for a few hours beforehand.

  • In a food processor mix all of the following to a smooth paste:

½ cup soaked pumpkin seeds

¼ cup water

The juice of ½ lemon

Optional: splashes of tamari or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos to taste

A medium clove of garlic

¼ cup of cold-pressed olive oil

 

  • Separately, chop a medium-sized bunch of fresh basil leaves very finely. Stir them into the pumpkin seed mixture or pulse for a second.
  • Serve the pesto stirred into pasta, preferably into ‘courgette pasta’ made from thin shavings of courgette cut with a potato peeler.

 

Pumpkin seed and walnut loaf

2 cups pumpkin seeds, soaked for six to eight hours

2 cups walnuts, soaked overnight

1 cup carrot, chopped

1 cup red pepper, deseeded and chopped

1 cup onion, diced

1 cup parsley, chopped

1 cup dried mushrooms

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon raw tahini (optional)

Sprig of parsley to garnish

 

  • Process the pumpkin seeds, walnuts and carrot in a food processor until smooth. Remove and place in a bowl.
  • Pulse the remaining ingredients except the parsley together in a food processor until they are of a chunky consistency. Place in the bowl with the pumpkin seed mixture and combine thoroughly.
  • Place on a serving dish and mould into the desired shape. Garnish with parsley.

 

These recipes were taken from Love Your Bones by Max Tuck.

 

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The PK Cookbook: PK bread recipe

PK Cookbook

The single biggest reason for lapsing from the PK diet (Paleo-ketogenic) is the absence of bread. To secure the diet for life you must first make PK bread. I have searched and nothing is currently available commercially which passes muster. Loaves will become available as demand builds, but in the meantime you have to make your own bread. If you do not have the energy to do this yourself but have any friends or family offering to help you, then top of the list must be, ‘Please make my daily bread’. PK bread consists of just linseed, sunshine salt (see Chapter 13, page 93) and water.  Americans, and others, may be more familiar with linseed being referred to as flax or flaxseed or common flax. There is technically a subtle difference – flax is grown as a fibre plant that is used for linen.  Linseed is grown for its seed. The flax plant is taller than linseed and is ‘pulled’ by hand, or nowadays by machine.

How to make a PK bread loaf in five minutes

Please forgive the tiresome detail, but you must succeed with your first loaf because then you will be encouraged to carry on. I can now put this recipe together in five minutes (proper minutes that is – not the ‘and this is what I did earlier’ TV version). I have spent the last six months making a loaf almost every morning – there have been many revisions and the version below is the current recipe which I think is perfect!

Equipment needed:

  • Cooking oven that gets to at least 220 degrees Centigrade
  • Weighing scales
  • Nutribullet (or similarly effective grinding machine – do not attempt to do this with a pestle and mortar; I know – I have tried and failed)
  • Mixing bowl
  • A 500 gram (or one pound in weight) loaf baking tin
  • Measuring jug
  • Cup in which to weigh the linseed
  • Wooden spoon
  • Wire rack for cooling
  • Paper towels

Ingredients needed:

  • 250 grams of whole linseed (use dark or golden linseed grains)
  • One teaspoon of sunshine salt (can be purchased from www.sales@drmyhill.co.uk) or unrefined sea salt
  • Dollop of coconut oil or lard
Actions Notes
Take 250 grams of whole linseed You could purchase linseed in 250 gram packs and that saves weighing it. Use dark or golden linseed grains – the golden grains produce a brown loaf, the dark a black one.Do not use commercially ground linseed – the grinding is not fine enough, also it will have absorbed some water already and this stops it sticking together in the recipe.If you purchase linseed in bulk then you must weigh it really accurately in order to get the proportion of water spot on.
No raising agent is required.
Pour half the linseed into the Nutribullet/grinder together with one rounded teaspoon of PK ‘Sunshine’ salt (see page 93).
Grind into a fine flour.
Use the flat blade to get the finest flour.Grind until the machine starts to groan and sweat with the effort! You need a really fine flour to make a good loaf. This takes about 30 seconds.The finer you can grind the flour the better it sticks together and the better the loaf.I do this in two batches of 125 grams or the blades ‘hollow out’ the mix so that half does not circulate and grind fully.
Pour the ground flour into a mixing bowl.
Repeat the above with the second half of the seeds and add to the mixing bowl. Whilst this is grinding, measure the water you need.
Add in exactly 270 ml water (not a typo – 270 it is). Chuck it all in at once; do not dribble it in.Stir it with a wooden spoon and keep stirring. It will thicken over the course of 30 seconds.Keep stirring until it becomes sticky and holds together in a lump. The amount of water is critical. When it comes to cooking, I am a natural chucker in of ingredients and hope for the best. But in this case, you must measure.Initially it will look as if you have added far too much water, but keep stirring.
Use your fingers to scoop up a dollop of coconut oil or lard. Use this to grease the baking tin. Your hands will be covered in fat which means you can pick up your sticky dough without it sticking to your hands
Use your hands to shape the dough until it has a smooth surface.
Drop it into the greased baking tin
Spend about 30 seconds doing this. Do not be tempted to knead or fold the loaf or you introduce layers of fat which stop it sticking to itself. This helps prevent the loaf cracking as it rises and cooks (although I have to say it does not matter two hoots if it does. It just looks more professional if it does not!)
Let the loaf ‘rest’ for a few minutes …so it fully absorbs all the water and becomes an integral whole. This is not critical but allows enough time to…
…rub any excess fat into your skin, where it will be absorbed There is no need to wash your hands after doing this – the basis for most hand creams is coconut oil or lard. (Yes, lard. It amuses me that rendered animal fat is a major export from our local knacker man to the cosmetic industry.)
Put the loaf into the hot oven – at least 220°C (430°F) – for 60 minutes Set a timer or you will forget – I always do!I do not think the temperature is too critical – but it must be hot enough to turn the water in the loaf into steam because this is what raises it. I cook on a wood-fired stove and the oven temperature is tricky to be precise with. That does not seem to matter so long as it is really hot. Indeed, I like the flavour of a slightly scorched crust.
Wipe out the mixing bowl with a paper towel. This cleaning method is quick and easy. The slightly greasy surface which remains will be ideal for the next loaf. The point here is that fat cannot be fermented by bacteria or yeast and does not need washing off mixing and cooking utensils. My frying pan has not been washed for over 60 years. I know this because my mother never washed it either.
When the timer goes off, take the loaf out of the oven, tip it out and allow it to cool on a wire rack.
Once cool keep it in a plastic bag in the fridge.
It lasts a week kept like this and freezes well too.It is best used sliced thinly with a narrow-bladed serrated knife.

Fry your freshly made PK bread in coconut oil or lard and add the following for a delicious PK breakfast;

  • 2-3 boiled eggs
  • Smoked fish, tinned fish, tinned cod’s roe
  • Paté or rillette
  • Nut butter
  • Vegan cheese (check the carb content of this) and tomato
  • Coyo yoghurt

This blog was taken from Sarah Myhill and Craig Robinson’s new book The PK Cookbook

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How food influences your mood

How Food Influences Your Mood

Learning to feel differently about food includes recognising the link between nutrition and mental wellbeing. There is no point in achieving a slimmer body if the price is depression and increased anxiety. Scientific researchers suggest people should be cautious in how they reduce their calorie intake while attempting to slim down as research findings show that sudden changes in nutrition, or reducing certain nutrients in a diet, can result in a worsening of depressive symptoms. (Sathyanarayana et al, 2008)

A study in the British Journal of Psychiatry (Akbaraly et al, 2009) also found evidence that eating a wide range of real foods versus processed foods of poor nutritional quality increased the likelihood of depression.

When people abruptly stop eating large amounts of processed foods containing unhealthy fats, and loaded with sugar, they can often experience withdrawal symptoms similar to those of going “cold turkey” from drugs. The withdrawal symptoms can last for several days and for some people the symptoms of headache, muscle pain and feeling below par can be powerful enough for them to return to their old eating habits just to make them feel “normal” again. Stick with the process, though, as the rewards will far outweigh any temporary discomfort.

Other nutritional deficiencies have a part to play in feeling low or even depressed. These include deficiencies in zinc, omega-3 fats, B vitamins, B6 and B12 especially, and vitamin D.

Missing meals can cause a dip in blood sugar levels, resulting in the release of adrenaline which increases feelings of anxiety and can even be a trigger for raised levels of anxiety generally.

Disordered eating often involves binge eating. This causes physical discomfort but can also often be a trigger for feelings of despair and shame. If overeating happens late at night, the inevitable bloating can interfere with the ability to sleep, again lowering mood.

Following a restrictive diet where carbohydrates are eliminated has an impact on serotonin levels in the brain that can lead to feelings of depression. We encourage eating a balance of complex, unrefined starchy carbohydrates such as vegetables and protein and healthy fats to maintain a positive mood, and promote satiety.

Making changes towards healthier food choices is obviously beneficial on many different levels. The changeover can happen during a radical period when mass changes are made, or one meal at a time, gradually reducing the amount of processed sugars and high fat foods that are eaten. How this is tackled is down to personal choice, and what best suits each individual.

In essence, a healthy diet will not cause ecstatic happiness but a poor diet could be a contributing factor to feeling low, so it’s important for mental wellbeing to eat a wide variety of real foods.

This blog is taken from How to Feel Differently About Food by Sally Baker and Liz Hogon. You can read the first chapter here!

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So, what is the Paleo diet?

What is the paleo diet

First, it is important to state there is no such thing as ‘the Paleo diet’ per se. Pre-agricultural diets were regionally variable and seasonally cyclical. In colder climates, they tended to be meat-based as the land was either under snow for much of the year or of poor quality and only suited to grazing. In warmer regions fewer red meats were eaten and fruits and plants dominated. Although the ancestral diet may have varied in content, it was more nutrient dense than that of today. So, although no standardised Paleo diet exists, the Paleo diet is usually defined by what it excludes, and is generally accepted as being, legume and dairy free.

It is thought that the advent of agriculture around 10,000 years ago marked the demise of the nomadic way of life, giving way to the cultivation of grains and legumes and the domestication of animals for milk. Archaeological remains suggest an abrupt decline in health at this time. Loss of stature, arthritis and other diseases associated with poor mineralisation seem to coincide with the introduction of grains into the diet. Ten thousand years might seem like a long time to those of us who hope to live to around 80 but is, in fact, the evolutionary equivalent of the ‘blink of an eye’, and would not have given us enough time to adapt.

However, there is archaeological evidence that some hunter-gatherers were eating grains much earlier than this. It seems the closer to the equator, the greater the intake of plant-based foods, which in some cases may have included wild grains. This may explain why gluten (and dairy) intolerance is more prevalent in colder latitudes, and why those with Scandinavian or north European ancestry are poorly suited to a vegetarian diet. What the hunter gatherer diet seemed to have in common was that they were highly nutritious and all contained meat or fish. They provided good levels of minerals, saturated fat and fat-soluble vitamins, with little or no grain or dairy and variable amounts of protein, most of which was derived from meat.

Much of the diet was raw which further increased the nutrient density and provided good levels of fibre. I suspect that rather than being historically accurate, the modern assumption that the Paleo diet was a high protein diet results from the misplaced fat and carb phobia diet that is still influencing nutritional thinking today. In fact, the food group most highly prized in the ancestral diet was saturated fat. Carbs have been given a bad press because they are nearly always derived from grains, a food group that causes problems in a number of people.

However, carbs from vegetables and fruits are much easier for the body to handle. A diet high in raw vegetables and salads does not have the same effect as a diet high in cereals, although both are high in carbohydrate. Whilst it may seem impossible to imagine a diet without grains, they are easily replaced by alternatives such as vegetable pastas, and coconut, seed and nut flours in baking and break making. Nuts can be fermented into cheeses, coconut cream into yoghurt and soft cheese, and the milk from nuts and coconuts can be made into delicious desserts and ice-creams, making Paleo eating varied and enjoyable.

What is also known about the Paleo diet is that it contained virtually no sugar. Refining has enabled us to concentrate sugars in quantities that our bodies are ill equipped to handle. For example, a soft drink contains the equivalent of eight and a half feet of sugar cane – an impossible quantity to get through in its unrefined state. The high proportion of carbohydrates in the modern diet compounds our inbuilt predilection for sweet foods.

Until technology got involved in food production, foods that were bitter were generally poisonous and those that were sweet were usually safe to eat, but that doesn’t apply today since many foods are laced with sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners – and they definitely aren’t safe to eat. Our first food, breast milk, contains a sugar called lactose and thus the early association between feeding and being loved is established before we are capable of conscious thought. Eating is associated with emotion, and this is one of the reasons sweet foods can be comforting, and why we can feel deprived and miserable when trying to give them up.

Despite their pervasive presence at nearly every meal today, in Europe and America grains were only elevated from animal fodder to dietary staple at the time of the industrial revolution, cultivating in us a taste for stodgy, high-carbohydrate foods, which has been a contributory factor to the obesity epidemic. The Arabic nations seem to have been eating grains the longest, and their wheat sensitivity and carbohydrate intolerance are rare. The rapid increase in degenerative disease that has characterised the last 100 years demonstrates that most of us have struggled to adapt. It is estimated that 80 per cent of cancers are related in some way to diet, and it is probably evident to you that much of the food we eat today could not be described as healthy.

In fact, much of it wouldn’t be recognised by even our recent ancestors. Not only are the foods themselves different – the result of selective cultivation or the products of technology – but the ratios of fat, protein and carbohydrate have been reversed. Fat phobia flourishes, and grains – previously dismissed as mostly animal feed, as I have said – now form the foundation of almost everything we eat. In addition, some of what passes for food isn’t food at all but a concoction of chemicals, conceived in the laboratory rather than grown on the land. Modern grass eaters, particularly cows, may not have had access to grass, and non-organic crops will have been forced to grow in demineralised soils, which is why today’s produce contains an average of 80 per cent less nutrients than it did only 50 years ago.

This blog is taken from Go Paleo – Feeding the Urban Caveman by Eve Gilmore. You can read the first chapter here!

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Trick and Treat: How healthy eating is making us ill

Trick and treat: how healthy eating is making us ill

Every year the amount of money the Chancellor gives to the UK’s National Health Service goes up and so do our taxes to provide for it. And every year we hear more and more complaints about falling levels of service, lengthening waiting times for treatment, and worsening levels of hospital-borne diseases. With the billions of pounds we pump into the NHS each year, have you ever wondered why we don’t get a better service? The reason seems to be because we do pump billions of pounds into the NHS every year. Continue reading Trick and Treat: How healthy eating is making us ill

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Diagnosis of diabetes and its precursor, metabolic syndrome

Before getting to the testing stage we can get some very useful clues from a combination of the clinical picture together with commonly done routine tests. However, if you eat what is generally considered a ‘normal, healthy, balanced diet’ (ho! ho!) based on the intellectually risible food pyramid, then it is likely that you have carbohydrate addiction and are on the way to metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

In order of priority and ease, the diagnosis can be made from:

  • The contents of the supermarket trolley
  • Diet
  • Snacking
  • Tendency to go for other addictions
  • Obesity
  • The clinical picture

The contents of the supermarket trolley

  • Bread, biscuits, cake, pasta, cereals, sugar, waffles, bagels, dough nuts and other such
  • Fruit juice, pop, alcohol, “energy” drinks and general junk drinks
  • Fruit basket with tropical sweet fruits such as pineapple, melon, bananas, grapes. Apples and pears
  • Sweet dried fruits – sultanas, raisins, dates
  • Snack foods – cereal bars, ‘energy bars’
  • Sweets, toffees, fudges
  • Honey, fructose, syrups
  • Jams, marmalades, choc spreads
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Ice creams and puddings, like cheesecakes and trifles
  • Low cocoa-percentage chocolate
  • Crisps, corn snacks, popcorn…you get the idea – we call it junk food!

Such a supermarket trolley is very indicative of a diagnosis of carbohydrate addiction, metabolic syndrome and/or diabetes.

“Indeed, I have just returned from a trip to the supermarket. The man in front was placing his purchases at the check-out. I felt myself sighing as the packets of chocolate biscuits, crisps, white bread and sweet drinks piled up. But what moved me to an intense desire to shout out were the final three items – paracetamol, ibuprofen and a box of antacids. He was poisoning himself with the carbs, then symptom-suppressing with the drugs. Addiction has blinded him to the obvious.”

Diet

Breakfast gives the game away. This is because no food has been consumed overnight and with carbohydrate addiction, blood sugar levels are low in the morning. The need for a carbohydrate-based breakfast indicates metabolic syndrome – typically with consumption of fruit, fruit juice, sweetened tea or coffee, cereals, toast, bread or croissants. ‘Oh, but surely porridge and muesli are OK?’ so many cry. Often they are not OK – the only way to really find out is to measure blood sugar levels.

“Even now my daughters can hear me groaning when the adverts on the telly for breakfast cereals come on. I really cannot stop myself. The Telegraph recently reported that, ‘Children’s breakfast cereals can contain as much as three teaspoons of sugar – the equivalent of two and a half chocolate biscuits,’ and so there are also ‘hidden’ dangers.”

Snacking

The need for a carbohydrate snack or sweet drink is often triggered by falling blood sugar. Many people comment that when they go on holiday and treat themselves to a fry-up for breakfast, they no longer feel hungry before lunch. Snacking is a disaster – it feeds the fermenting mouth and gut, prevents the glycogen sponges squeezing dry, spikes insulin and prevents fat burning.

Carbohydrates with every meal

The symptom of ‘not being satisfied’ with meat and vegetables is particularly indicative of carbohydrate addiction, with the need for a sweet pudding to ‘hit the spot’.

Tendency to go for other addictions

Also highly indicative of carbohydrate addiction is the tendency to have other addictions … such as alcohol, smoking, coffee, chocolate, prescription drugs (yes – many of these are addictive), and ‘legal’ and illegal highs.

Obesity

Obesity is not the cause of metabolic syndrome and diabetes, but may be a symptom of both. Many people with type 2 diabetes have metabolic syndrome and normal weight and vice versa – obese people may have no signs of metabolic syndrome. It is the constant sugar spikes in the portal vein, the effect of which eventually spills over into the systemic (whole body) circulation, when the liver is overwhelmed, this characterises metabolic syndrome and diabetes. We cannot measure these spikes because the portal vein is buried deep in the abdomen and links the gut to the liver. Interestingly, it is the fatty liver which is highly correlated with metabolic syndrome and diabetes – not the fatty rest of the body. Fat in the liver can be measured with MRI scans, but this is an expensive test not routinely available.

The ability to gain and lose weight is an essential survival ploy for all mammals. Think of the hibernating female brown bear who has to survive months of intense cold, pregnancy and breast feeding with no food intake. She achieves this on autumn fat together with the ability to switch into fat burning. She remains completely healthy throughout.

Share your story for Diabetes Week by using the hashtag #knowdiabetes.

This blog was originally published in Prevent and Cure Diabetes: Delicious diets, not dangerous drugs by Dr Sarah Myhill and Craig Robinson.

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Eat to beat depression

Eat to beat depression for World Health Day

Tackling depression naturally for World Health Day

Nutrition-related health issues seem to take an age to become part of accepted medical practice. The medical establishment requires comprehensive scientific evaluation, randomised trials and peer review before a new drug can be licensed, for instance. The pharmaceutical company has to weigh up the costs of research and development versus the potential profit to be made from launching a successful product that can earn a good return on their investment. (When you add in the factor that 80 per cent of their budget goes on marketing, it is clear the stakes are high indeed.) As real food is simply real food and can’t be licensed, branded or patented, there is little impetus for the medical community to fund costly research.

Medical research over the last couple of decades has, nevertheless, highlighted how an unhealthy gut can contribute to many physical diseases and these findings are becoming more accepted in mainstream medicine. Clinicians increasingly agree that the gut-brain axis also plays a crucial part in emotional wellbeing, including the development of conditions as diverse as chronic fatigue syndrome, depression and autism.

The Gut-Brain Axis

The gut-brain axis is a way of describing the interrelationship between gut health and brain health. The various aspects of digestion are controlled via the vagus nerves by a complex set of neurons embedded in the oesophagus, stomach, intestines, colon and rectum. The brain sends messages to all the nerves in your body, including the neurons that control digestion. All work efficiently enough until a person is anxious or stressed on an ongoing basis. You perhaps know for yourself that if you are feeling nervous your stomach can feel upset and queasy. The reason for this is that strong negative emotions, stress and anxiety increase cortisol and adrenaline, which then stimulate the sympathetic nervous system and shut down the parasympathetic system, which includes control of the gut. This causes a physical chain reaction:

* Reduction in pancreatic enzyme production

* Reduction in gall bladder function

* Reduction in the production of stomach acid

* Slowing down of peristalsis – the involuntary muscle movements essential for moving food efficiently through intestines for the absorption of nutrients

* Reduction in blood flow to the intestines

* Suppression of the intestinal immune system

In the short term, this allows the body to focus its resources on ‘fight or flight’ – a good survival mechanism. However, with ongoing stress and anxiety, this cumulative slowing down and suppression of the digestive process can, over a prolonged period, lead to a condition called ‘small intestinal bacterial overgrowth’ (SIBO). As the digestive process is compromised by stress and anxiety, the lack of stomach acid allows the stomach and small intestine – which should both be pretty much microbe free – to be colonised by unhealthy bacteria, and yeasts, causing foods to be fermented rather than digested. In addition to gas and bloating, compromised digestion leads to declining absorption of nutrients, which contributes to the loss of the co-factors needed for good digestion, and consequently further gut problems.

Now consider this situation lasting for extended periods of time. The integrity of the gut lining may be compromised, contributing to gut permeability (‘leaky gut’) that may be sufficient to produce chronic low-grade inflammation.

Chronic Inflammation

The inflammatory process includes the production of cytokines, chemical signals of inflammation that are carried by the blood to the brain. The cytokines can activate cells – so that the inflammation originating in the gut thereby causes widespread inflammation in the rest of the body, including the brain.

The impact of brain inflammation is that the brain has reduced nerve conductance which – guess what – shows up as depression, anxiety and stress.

This vicious circle can self-perpetuate and requires long-term changes to heal the gut, which in turn will help to heal the brain. This is done through changes in behaviour and improving levels of nutrition through changes to food choices. To improve your natural resilience to stress it is important to increase the amount of healthy polyunsaturated omega-3 oils in your diet, so look for oily fish, grass-fed meats and butter made from the milk of grass-fed dairy herds. Good plant sources include hemp seeds, linseeds, chia and some nuts and nut oils (macadamia, almond).

If you consider yourself to be depressed it will be helpful for your recovery to manage your stress levels, improve your sleep patterns and add nutritious and gut-healing foods into your regular eating plan.

Do bear in mind, however, that you may also need professional help if you have been suffering from this debilitating psychological disorder for some time. Please make sure you are accessing all the medical and psychological support you need. Try hard not to add isolation to an already challenging situation.

This blog has been taken from How to Feel Differently About Food by Sally Baker & Liz Hogon.

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Super Fruity Flapjack Recipe

Fruit is a great cleanser of the liver and blood and provides many essential nutrients, such as Vitamin C, which is required on a daily basis. Fresh or home-juiced fruit will aid in weight loss and improve metabolism and the immune system. Juicing one lemon and consuming the juice throughout the day in teas, on fish and salads and in drinks will give the system an enormous cleansing boost. Berries are also highly nutritious. Cherries are anti-inflammatory so can provide pain relief.

Most fruits are diuretic and have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties so can relieve many ailments. They will also clean the blood, kidneys and liver, protect the heart, lungs and eyes, and clear the skin. Tangerines and raspberries possess properties which metabolise fat so can help with losing weight. Pineapple rehydrates the system so is good to consume after sweating or during fever. Try to eat at least three fruits of different colours every day.

Dried Fruit

This is an important part of the diet as it provides a concentrated form of fresh fruit’s nutrient and mineral content. Dried fruit can help avert cancerous tumours and aid digestion. One tablespoon of powdered maqui berry, from a reliable source, per day can help protect against cancer as it is very high in antioxidants. All dried fruits replenish energy and should be added to breakfasts, meals or eaten as snacks throughout the day instead of unhealthy, processed, sugary food bars. Making flapjacks with oats, honey, coconut, nuts, seeds and dried fruit can provide a way to stop hunger and revitalise the body instantly during the day. Consume a small handful of different dried fruits or a mix of them once or twice a day.

Healthy Heart Flapjacks

Flapjacks are a great way to gain the fibre and nutrients required throughout the day and this version also helps lower cholesterol, improve the digestive and immune system and nourishes and protects the bones, brain, eyes and heart. Because flapjacks take time to be digested, they will also stop hunger for a long time after consumption. They make a great breakfast, mid-morning or evening snack. Ingredients do not need to be measured exactly. Experiment and mix and match fruit, nuts and seed ingredients for personal taste and availability.

Ingredients

  • 500g porridge oats (other grains can also be added if required)
  • One table spoon of honey
  • One tablespoon of rapeseed oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Quarter of a teaspoon of cinnamon
  • Quarter of a teaspoon of nutmeg
  • One tablespoon of maqui berry powder
  • Pinch of ground unrefined sea salt
  • Five stoned and chopped dates
  • One handful dried chopped apricots
  • One medium peeled mashed banana
  • One small handful of raisins
  • One tablespoon of dried goji berries
  • One small handful of chopped nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts etc.)
  • One small handful of mixed seeds (flaxseeds, hempseeds, poppy, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower and watermelon)
  • One tablespoon desiccated coconut

Any or all of the following but add more oats to the mixture so it is not too wet

  • One handful of stoned cherries
  • One handful of raspberries
  • One handful of cranberries or blueberries

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F 180°C/160°C fan, Gas 4
  • Place all ingredients (except berries and cherries) into a food processor and mix to a very stiff paste-like consistency
  • If too dry add a little water and mix further
  • If too wet add more oats
  • Then add the cherries and berries gently folding them into the mixture
  • Press the mixture into a non-stick (rapeseed oil greased) shallow baking tin or tray
  • Bake for 30 to 45 minutes until set with a brown crispy top. Use a skewer to test the middle. It may take longer if fresh fruit has been added
  • Take out of the oven and cool slightly before cutting into portion sizes then leave to get cold in the tray. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

Nutrients and Benefits of The Flapjack Ingredients

  • Apricots (protects the heart and eyes)
  • Bananas (adds fibre and potassium)
  • Cherries (adds anti-inflammatory pain relief especially sour cherries)
  • Coconuts (adds lots more fibre and has antimicrobial, antifungal, antivirus and rehydrating properties)
  • Cranberries and blueberries (protects the eyes, liver and the whole body against arthritis, cancer and urinary tract infection)
  • Dates (protects against heart and eye diseases)
  • Lemon (adds vitamin C, cleanses the liver, pancreas and intestines and helps with weight loss)
  • Raisins (protects against heart disease and arthritis)
  • Raspberries (increases metabolism of fats)

This recipe and blog is taken from Nature Cures: The A to Z of Ailments and Natural Foods by Nat H Hawes. For more natural nutrition and home remedies from Nat visit Nature Cures.